The word interoperability has been thrown around web3 a lot in the last year. But what does it actually mean?
It’s not enough to build an NFT collection and sell it out. Or to buy an individual NFT that is stuck in one location. Those fly-by-night strategies don’t work anymore.
While many believe blockchain interoperability will be the key to the mass adoption of web3 and make this version of the internet truly different, not everyone knows how to achieve it.
The secret to interoperability lies in being blockchain agnostic.
Let’s start with the basics of a blockchain. A blockchain is a decentralized technology that stores, secures, and verifies digital assets and their information. Examples of popular blockchains include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Polygon, NEAR, and Avalanche.
With that in mind, being blockchain agnostic or having “multi-chain capabilities” means that a person or business’s digital assets are not tied to any particular blockchain, but instead can move easily across them.
For instance, if you want to travel from one place to another, you have options based on your needs–you could take a bike, car, bus, train, or plane. One option might be the fastest, another better for the environment, and another the least expensive. The good news is you can choose a different method based on your needs at the time. You wouldn’t choose a plane to go to the store or a bike to travel to another continent.
In a similar vein, you might choose a different blockchain depending on a specific use case or features like security, scalability, transaction speed, or cost. Each blockchain, like a transportation method, has its strengths, weaknesses, and specialties.
If you own a digital asset, it’s often locked on a single blockchain.
If you want to move to another chain, you have to go through a process called bridging, which can be complicated and expensive.
Currently, if a collector buys an NFT on a blockchain—say, Ethereum—their NFT is stuck on that blockchain. They can’t (easily) take it to any other blockchain.
As our CEO, Zach Bruch says:
“Being locked into a single blockchain is like buying a t-shirt in one country and not being able to wear it in another.”
As it stands, most NFTs are like a t-shirt you can only wear in one country. But this is where multi-chain capabilities come into play.
Why should users care about interoperability? They can take advantage of blockchain agnosticism in two main ways: ownership and flexibility.
More than ever, users want to be in control of their digital assets. As time goes on, they’ll be able to get different utility from holding a single asset that can move across multiple blockchains.
With blockchain agnostic assets, users can bring their NFTs to different networks, communities, and opportunities.
Many people who tout interoperability underscore that moving to different blockchains allows users to get better prices for selling their NFTs. That may be true. But it’s missing the point of what will make NFTs valuable in the future.
You don’t want to build blockchain agnostic experiences just so your holders can flip their NFTs on a different chain for a better price.
You want to be blockchain agnostic because even if users don’t know what interoperability is now, they’ll demand what it provides in the near future.
NFTs confined to one blockchain will be relics, made obsolete by more versatile NFTs.
Allowing your users to mint their NFT on Polygon, for example, then take it to Avalanche, Ethereum, or a number of other major blockchains is how you enable true digital ownership and future-proof your NFTs.
It’s not just users who benefit from multi-chain capabilities. If you’re a business or creator, being blockchain agnostic offers several advantages for your web3 objectives.
Each blockchain has its own user base, culture, and utility.
But some of them do overlap. For example, many NFT enthusiasts like to mint and collect NFTs on both Ethereum and Avalanche, while others are loyal to a single blockchain and never move off it.
Making blockchain agnostic NFT collections opens up your access to more users across blockchains. The wider the net of blockchains you support, the larger the audience you’ll capture.
Building your NFT collection (or any blockchain-enabled application) to be blockchain agnostic helps to future-proof your work.
For example, if a big tech company enters web3 and creates a new blockchain that aligns better with your objectives, you can quickly shift to it without rebuilding from the ground up. On the other hand, if something out of your control happens to the blockchain you originally built on, you won’t have to worry about any impact to your infrastructure and can seamlessly move to a new one.
Being blockchain agnostic allows you that flexibility.
Things move fast in this space. Standards change. Right now, specific blockchains are the gold standard for NFTs but that could shift in a matter of weeks or months.
Being blockchain agnostic means you’ll never be stuck on a blockchain, no matter what changes or developments occur.
If an NFT is stuck on a single blockchain, it doesn’t matter how great the art, utility, or collection is.
It’s comparable to a masterpiece painting in a museum nobody visits. Or an amazing album that only exists on 8-track.
Blockchain agnostic technology allows individuals and organizations to remain flexible and adaptable to the changing landscape of web3 as new technologies and platforms emerge. It also enables them to take advantage of the strengths and unique features of different blockchains rather than being limited by the capabilities of a single blockchain.
Businesses and creators must work to build something that lasts for themselves and their users. And to thrive, you have to be versatile.
That’s why enabling true ownership and interoperability for your users is paramount. And there’s no better way to do that than by being blockchain agnostic.